Hurt Feelings Are Important In Relationships

Almost everybody knows sharing positive feelings is good for relationships. And unless you live under a rock, the Valentine’s Day marketing mania will make certain you get this. What’s not as widely known, though, is just how important sharing hurt feelings is for relationships. Many think really good relationships don’t include misunderstandings. As a result when you’re in the midst of an upset with someone, it’s a double whammy. You’ve got the upset to deal with and, at the same time, you’re afraid having the upset automatically means the relationship isn’t right.

The problem with this thinking is that upsets in relationships are unavoidable. Even the best communicators get hungry, tired, aggravated, late, stressed and/or affected by unconscious or subconscious internal conflicts which impact the tone, prosody and clarity of communication. Mis-communications occur when you or your beloved are not in touch with what you are feeling or what you need. You say something innocuous and you’re surprised by your sharp tone.  Or you’re tired, hungry, conflicted loved one completely distorts something you’ve said due to their stressed state. Unavoidable!

Furthermore, if you’re in an ongoing relationship of any kind (familial, marital, friendship, dating, friends with benefits…) and you try to avoid conflict by not saying what you’re really feeling or thinking, you miss out on intimacy. Holding back communication inevitably shuts hearts and a juicy connection soon withers and dies. You end up with a conflict free zone which also turns out to be an intimacy free zone.

Every hurt feeling provides an opportunity to get to know your loved ones (and yourself) better in the present moment. Here’s an example from my life. I was having lunch with a friend (I’ll call her Isabel) a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to bring up a comment I’d made previously which I realized, only in retrospect, was the result of unconsciously projecting my own self judgment onto her!  Truth be told, although I’d had a twinge of awareness at the time that my comment was not supportive,  what really got me examining my behavior was noticing  how remote and withdrawn Isabel seemed at the end of our outing. I felt rejected.

When I asked Isabel how she’d felt about what I’d said, she replied it hadn’t felt good, but that she’d quickly decided it was her problem… that she was just in her ego, and if she were really a mature person she’d just brush it off.  My heart hurt to see how she had shut herself down in this way.  I told her how sorry I was that my own unconscious woundedness had triggered pain for her. I invited Isabel to let me know whenever she felt hurt by something I said.  Isabel said she would try even though speaking up in that way was hard for her. I then asked how she would feel if, at those times, I didn’t feel our connection I checked in with her to see what was going on. What she said next
surprised me.

When she was a little girl and having a hard time emotionally, Isabel said, her parents would send her to her room. She used to wish and wish that they would come for her and they never did.  Isabel said now she puts herself in that room whenever she feels bad about things and she would love it if I would come for her, if I would reach out to her. I was so touched. We both teared up as our feelings of rejection fell away. We were no longer lonely together, but loving together, deeply connected and
closer than ever.

My wish for you this Valentine’s Day and forever: that you welcome each relationship upset as a chance to open your heart to the joy of knowing, accepting and loving yourself and your loved ones ever more tenderly, ever more deeply.

~ Penelope

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